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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Feel the Love (And grab a freebie!)

What happens when you try to explain to your first grade students that you started a blog about teaching over the weekend?

"Blog sounds like a monster. Why do you want it?"

Hmm, not quite what I was going for.  Maybe we do need to spend more time on those technology benchmarks. (Sigh - add it to the list)

After the incredible support, warm wishes, and cheers of encouragement from you all this weekend, I practically skipped into school Tuesday morning. How could I not? THANK YOU to everyone who has made me feel so welcome in giving this thing a shot. And a GIGANTIC thank you to my favorite teacher/mentor/best friend/comrade, Jillian  (The Starr Spangled Planner) for sharing this teeny tiny little piece of the internet with you all. I've been lucky enough to work with Jillian for the last few years and am so inspired by the outstanding work she does everyday!

This year I have been gifted the most amazing group of kiddos. They are kind, sensitive, and inquisitive little learners and I am already having nightmares about letting them go at the end of the year!


They are also the most challenging group of students I have ever worked with.  This year in particular we are balancing many different academic, social/emotional, medical, and behavioral learning needs and challenges.  As teachers, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. (This is why pencils have erasers. Am I right?) So this year in Room 339, we are taking differentiated instruction to the next level. What does that look like? Mostly chaos. And lots of coffee drinking. And lots of Taylor Swift playing in the background to keep everyone me happy sane.

This year, it quickly became apparent that my guided math model just wasn't working to meet the needs of all my students. Normally, I run math in a small-group workshop model, where students alternate between independent and small group work, along with guided teacher instruction to deliver academic content.  After spending way too much time trying to effectively group my kids, I realized that this system simply wasn't going to cut it.  So I threw up a Hail Mary, ditched our old model, and started having my kiddos work in math partners.

KenKen puzzles in CD covers helps means they can be used over and over!

I LOVE IT! Math is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day. Students begin each day by greeting their partner with a smile and a handshake, and say 'It's great to work with you today!'. Community building, social support, and math all-in-one? Yes please.

They get to work by heading over to our work board {photo coming soon!} and finding materials for their daily activities, or meeting me for guided delivery of our academic content. To keep track of each student's learning goals, and manage the weekly activities of the partners, I've redesigned my lesson planning to support our partner-based model.  A full set of my student data-tracking forms and planning sheets will be coming to my TPT Store soon (I hope - stay tuned!) but for now, here's a guided math planning sheet FREEBIE! This page helps me plan my direct instruction for each week, record notes on student learning, and maintain data for conferences, team meetings, etc. Just click on the image below to try this freebie out!
We are definitely still a 'work-in-progress' on this new approach, so I hope to share more soon with you on how things are going. Next time, I'll be posting about differentiating our math activities for each partner set. Until then, what are your favorite ways to differentiate math instruction for all students?

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. You are truly amazing! I am so excited that you have started this blog! Now that we aren't teaching first grade together {insert whimper} I can stalk your blog instead! I'm totally trying out math partners (love the hand shake!) and have already snagged your data sheet! Keep the posts coming!
    The Starr Spangled Planner

    1. You are too kind, my inspirational friend! At least now we can engage in mutual stalking. Creepy? I think not. :)

  2. Fantastic post! I use partners for my math centers as well. I have a group of 4-6 at my table and my para has the same, then everyone else has a partner to work on their center with. I love it. Sounds like things are going great in your room!

    Luv My Kinders

    1. Partners are great! I'm still working out the final glitches and trying to figure out the best long-term planning system, but I LOVE it! Partners are the best way for me to meet the needs of EVERY kiddo in my class. So glad to hear there is someone out there who's with me! :)